I hear about unusual and rare medical stories all the time and I generally don’t pay that much attention to them, but this one did catch my attention and I’ll explain why further down.
In Taiwan, there is an annual event known at the Chinese Qing Ming tomb festival. During the festival, people visit the graves of their loved ones and spend time cleaning them up. They pull weeds and sweep off the graves and tombstones. It’s their way of honoring and remembering their departed loved ones.
During the festival, 28-year-old Ms. He, as she has been identified as, was pulling weeds and sweeping up the grace of a loved one when a gust of wind hit her. She thought the gust of wind blew dust into her eyes, so she merely wiped at her eyes and continued on with cleaning up the grave.
However, a few hours later, her eyes were swollen and painful and she was unable to close her eyes, so she sought medical help at a hospital in southern Taiwan. Her eyes were so irritated that the lid was hard to open, but still not able to completely close. The doctor tried to look into the open slit with a type of microscope and was surprised at what he saw, which looked like the legs of an insect.
Carefully, he removed the insect and then he saw another and removed it and then another and then a fourth. The insects, identified as a type of sweat bee, were only 4mm (0.157 in. – 1/8 in. is 0.125 in) in size and still alive.
It is surmised that the gust of wind blew the sweat bees into her eyes.
Sweat bees don’t normally attack people’s eyes, but that doesn’t mean you are necessarily safe.
These tiny bees of family Halictidae, the second largest family of Apoidea bees. They are generally a small to tiny bee and called sweat bees because they are attracted to sweat, which they will drink up.
When I was very young boy, living on a small farm in Illinois, I was suddenly swarmed by a large number of sweat bees, some of which stung me on the arms, hands and face. Several of these small sweat bees flew into my eyes, one of which stung my eyelid.
I had been outside playing and was sweating in the hot humid air and thus was a perfect target for the swarm of sweat bees. But why did a couple of the sweat bees go for my eyes?
Like many people, when I sweat, the sweat runs into my eyes, causing my eyes to tear. Tears not only provide moisture and salt, both of which the sweat bees like, but tears also contain a large amount of proteins, something the bees really like and need. That’s why this weird medical news caught my attention and I could relate to it.
From what I’ve been able to find, there are other known instances of tiny sweat bees getting into someone’s eyes and even their ears. They are bees and they can sting and cause irritation and pain. If you live in area where sweat bees are, you need to be aware that when you are outside sweating, which is a good thing, you may find yourself to be the tasty target of the tiny insects. If something gets in your eyes, don’t just wipe it away but get inside and look to make sure it’s not a sweat bee.